Crafting Horror: Theatre of the Mind by H.R. Boldwood

Crafting Horror: Theatre of the Mind

by H.R. Boldwood

How do you define theatre of the mind? In its broadest sense, theatre of the mind uses sensation to evoke a person’s perception and imagination.

Some folks might think of the old-time radio programs of the 30’s and 40’s when fascinating stories played over the airwaves and transported people to another place and time. In 1938, Orson Well’s radio broadcast of War of the Worlds managed to spawn national panic by convincing us the Earth was under attack by Martians!

And he did it using primitive sound effects that pandered to the listener’s ear.

Baby boomers might picture a more high-tech version of the theatre of the mind. Take, for example, the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter attraction at Disney World (circa 1995 -2003). In an effort to entertain and heighten the anticipation of the line-weary crowd, Disney broadcast a brilliantly crafted preshow infomercial from the intergalactic company, XS Tech, which boasted, “If something can’t be done with XS, it shouldn’t be done at all.”

The crowd chuckled. Surely, disaster awaited.

Once the program began, the Chairman of XS Tech, an alien named L.C. Clench, announced that he would travel to Earth via the teleportation tube in the center of the auditorium.

But something went horribly wrong. Suddenly, lights strobed, steam hissed, and alarms sounded. The audience saw just enough to know that it wasn’t L.C. Clench who had arrived in the teleportation tube, but a hideous winged alien instead. Oh no!

The tube slowly cracked, then burst wide open. The alien escaped! And just when it seemed like it couldn’t get any worse, the power in the auditorium went out. The audience was thrust into darkness. A technician rushed to fix the problem, but by the sound of it, he’d been savagely killed by the extraterrestrial beast. The audience was trapped, harnessed into their seats in the pitch-black auditorium with a vicious alien on the loose!

The floor shook as the alien tromped around the room. The audience heard his tortured breathing, felt his hot breath down the backs of their necks. They twitched as his tail skittered across the backs of their calves and screamed as saliva dripped down on them from above.

Miraculously, the power was restored, the lights came back on, and the monster was captured just in the nick of time.

Whew! That was a close one! And what a delight to the senses.

Both War of the Worlds and Alien Encounter are perfect examples of theatre of the mind.

But what about what we do — we horror writers? Aren’t we providing our readers with theatre of the mind?

We should be.

We ask our readers to suspend their disbelief hoping we can take them on a ride just long enough to tell them our tales. If we have any hope of achieving that goal, it’s going to be by making those readers actually live our stories.

We’ve been lectured to death to ‘show not tell.’ In essence, we are being told to engage our reader’s senses.

I read a David Farland writing tip recently wherein he quoted the words of the poet, Leslie Norris. “When it rains in your story, your readers should get wet.”

It’s that simple.

Perceptions and imagination are evoked through the senses. Ergo, if we manage our readers’ perceptions and awaken their imaginations, we can create an alternate reality for them.

We can put them in the jungles of Viet Nam, the furthest reaches of space, a haunted house, or even the bowels of Hell. And we do it by evoking their senses – sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.

Here’s another outstanding nugget I’ve gleaned from David Farland’s tips: Not all people experience the world in the same way — much like we all don’t learn the same way. Some people learn by doing, others by watching, still others by listening.

It’s similar to the way people process what they’ve read. A person who learns by doing leans heavily on their sense of touch. That individual might prefer reading descriptions that are very tactile in nature. A person who prefers to watch and learn might prefer highly visual descriptions, while the person that learns by listening might prefer reading about the sounds of a setting.

That makes perfect sense – no pun intended. It also suggests that we need to incorporate all the senses into our stories, as often as possible. Including the senses artfully and in tandem helps create settings that transport our readers to the worlds we’ve created.

While we’re at it, are we letting our readers know what’s going on inside our characters’ heads? How they’re feeling? An internal dialog is a useful tool in this regard. My good friend, Killion Slade, introduced me to another dynamite tool, the Emotion Thesaurus, written by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. This book lists common emotions and their physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, as well as cues of their acute or long term duration and cues of their being suppressed. It’s become one of my favorite resources and it makes it easier than ever to create three-dimensional characters to star in my theatre of the mind productions.

No, there isn’t anything new and groundbreaking about writing descriptors, whether they’re painting a vivid setting or our characters’ emotions. This stuff has been drilled into us for years.

But if it’s really all that rudimentary, why don’t we each look back at one of our stories to see how frequently we actually do it. According to Farland and other successful writers, we should be hitting all of the senses on just about every page. That’s a whole lot of seeing, tasting, hearing, smelling, and touching going on. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to start focusing on this a bit more.

I wonder how my characters will feel about that.

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  • David Farland is an award-winning, bestselling international fantasy author, widely known for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series, The Runelords. Interested people can sign up to receive David’s e-mailed writing tips at www.davidfarland.com.

 

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H.R. Boldwood is a writer of horror and speculative fiction. In another incarnation, Boldwood is a Pushcart Prize nominee and was awarded the 2009 Bilbo Award for creative writing by Thomas More College. Publication credits include, “Killing it Softly”, “Short Story America”, “Bete Noir”, “Everyday Fiction”, “Toys in the Attic”, “Floppy Shoes Apocalypse II”, “Pilcrow and Dagger”, “Quickfic”, and “Sirens Call”. Boldwood’s story, ‘In the Shadow of Fire’ will be appearing in the anthology “Saturalia,” published by Hyperion and Theia in late 2017.

Boldwood’s characters are often disreputable and not to be trusted. They are kicked to the curb at every conceivable opportunity. No responsibility is taken by this author for the dastardly and sometimes criminal acts committed by this ragtag group of miscreants.

H.R. Boldwood can sometimes be found writing as Mary Ann Back, whose collection of short stories “Dead Reckoning”, published by Grey Wolfe Publishing, is available at www.amazon.com.

Amazon Author Central address: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01LWY22MD

Kbatz: Dragonwyck

Frightening Flix

Dragonwyck A Spooky and Charming Little Old Film

By Kristin Battestella

 

I was a bit surprised when I stumbled upon this 1946 title starring Gene Tierney and Vincent Price, for I had never heard of it before. Based upon 1944 novel by Anya Seton, Dragonwyck is a creepy little gothic tale of frightful mansions and murderous tendencies.

Miranda Wells (Tierney) dreams of bigger things than her family’s Connecticut farm, much to the chagrin of her devout parents Ephraim (Walter Houston) and Abigail (Anne Revere). When a letter arrives from Abigail’s distant and wealthy cousin Nicholas Van Ryan (Price), Miranda takes the offered opportunity to serve as companion to Nicholas’ daughter Katrine (Connie Marshall, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House) at the Van Ryan’s legendary Hudson Valley estate Dragonwyck. Once at the mansion, however, tales of hauntings, local unrest, and the uneven relationship between Nicholas and his wife Johanna (Vivienne Osborne) can’t deter Miranda from falling in love with Nicholas. But of course, he is married, and spends far too many nights in his secret tower room…

Though not a horror movie or thriller per se, Dragonwyck has many fearful moments and suspense-filled sequences, largely due to the simplest suggestions of intrigue. The black and white cinematography, creepy angles, spooky lighting, and haunting score by the famed Alfred Newman (How the West Was Won, The King and I, Camelot) give just the right amount of suggestion that not all is well at Dragonwyck. Screenwriter and first time director Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve, Guys and Dolls, Cleopatra) makes great strides in giving us the basis of the novel’s complex time and place, but some sequences in Dragonwyck do seem ill edited. Quick references to a change of time and place aren’t enough to indicate the move-sometimes it seems like you’re watching a film ‘edited for content and cut to run in the time allotted.’ Thankfully, performance and story win out with the help of great costumes and gothic sets.

220px-dragonwyck_film_poster

I don’t know much about Prince Aly Khan, except that he seemed to mentally ruin not one, but two Hollywood ladies- Rita Hayworth and Gene Tierney. Perhaps more well known today for her many romances, Tierney (Laura, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Leave Her To Heaven) was pretty and she could act. Maybe her beauty draws the viewer in, but Tierney’s expressions of innocence, naiveté, and love keep us interested in Miranda. We want her to find joy and happiness-even if the high society life at Dragonwyck clearly spells doom. Likewise, parents Walter Huston (Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Treasure of The Sierra Madre) and Anne Revere (National Velvet, The Song of Bernadette) are stern and respectable parents with only the best interests at heart. Observant viewers will also see a young Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy) as Peggy, the crippled Irish maid with a good heart.

It’s pretty plain to see that the ‘low’ farming folk have more values and morals than the ‘high’ Hudson folk, but Vivienne Osborne (Tomorrow at Seven) earns a piece of sympathy as Nicholas’ wife Johanna. She seems chubby and more interested in food than her daughter, but we feel that in some ways, this snotty style is not her fault. Her callous upbringing and lack of attention from her deceitful husband help blur the lines between this detailed look at the early Victorian lifestyle and Hudson society. But of course, Vincent Price (The Ten Commandments, The Pit and the Pendulum) plays a man who is not always what he seems. He’s thinner and more subdued than what we expect from the maniacal old horror maven to come in later films. Price’s Nicholas looks the waistcoat and top hat society man, we believe he can be respectable and a good love for Miranda-and yet we should know better. Price shows his range through Nicholas’ love, flagrant callousness, addictions, and other… nefarious… tendencies.

Dragonwyck is not a perfect film, and it is a little dated in some respects. Mankiewicz’ inexperience as a debut director also hampers some scenes. Nevertheless, gothic lovers and fans of classic suspense can enjoy Dragonwyck. Younger audiences may not understand some of the historical back-story about patroon landowners keeping tenant farmers in feudal like arrangements, but the spooky air is just right for a youthful scare or two. But of course, the DVD edition of Dragonwyck is now out of print. Thankfully, fans of Vincent Price can pick up a copy in several horror sets. It’s a strange placement, but fans of the cast and viewers who love a little bit of Bronte suspense will enjoy getting their hands on Dragonwyck. I’m tempted to find the book now, too!

Press Release: Holy Terror

57cf40af81587f91801602bcea55The riveting first official teaser trailer for the new supernatural horror film HOLY TERROR was just released. This film is in post production via Cineridge Entertainment from the award-winning team who previously brought us SAMURAI COP 2: DEADLY VENGEANCE.

Written and directed by Rich Mallery (SOCIOPATHIA) and executive-produced by Gregory Hatanaka (who helmed SAMURAI COP 2 from a script co-written by Mallery), HOLY TERROR stars MEATBALLS’ Kristine DeBell, Bruce Lee’s GAME OF DEATH’s Mel Novak, Lisa London  (H.O.T.S., PRIVATE RESORT), Kelly Reiter (The Z Virus), Jesse Hlubik (MAY, ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE), Nicole Olson, Scott Butler (WIENER DOG INTERNATIONALS), and Vida Ghaffari (THE MINDY PROJECT, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE).

Believing the strange disturbances in their home are their deceased son reaching out from the other side, Molly [Reiter] and Tom [Hlubik] ask a medium [London] to make contact. But instead of their child, the three accidentally invite a vengeful demon to cross over. After the demon violently possesses Molly’s younger sister [Olson], the couple enlists the help of a disgraced priest [Butler] and his mentor Sister Catherine [DeBell] to attempt a dangerous exorcism.

“There has been a resurgence of exorcism/possession-type movies, so it’s a little challenging to give audiences something they haven’t seen before. But we have a few tricks up our sleeve that are going to make HOLY TERROR stand apart from the crowd. Plus, we’re going for a real late-’70s/early-’80s feel. Films like THE CHANGELING, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR and of course the original EXORCIST are huge influences on this project,” said Mallery.

“I’m really excited to be partnering with Gregory Hatanaka again; this is the fourth film we’ve worked on together,” Mallery continues. “It’s a little strange this time around, since usually he’s directing and I’m the writer/AD, and this time I’m directing and he’s the DP, but we’re totally in sync when it comes to the vision, so we’re like a well-oiled machine. We’ve brought back a lot of the cast of SAMURAI COP 2—Jesse Hlubik, Lisa London, Mel Novak, Kristine DeBell and Nicole Olson—and although this is a completely different type of film, it’s great to have a lot of familiar faces who are used to the way Gregory and I work. We’re both slightly insane, so it’s amazing to be surrounded by people who support our vision.”

“As Rich and I are both rabid fans of 70s AIP and New World horror pics,” Hatanaka adds, “it was only a matter of time before we teamed up to do a film in that tradition. HOLY TERROR works on deep psychological levels, and has an otherworldly, TWILIGHT ZONE-ish kind of feel.”

Holy Terror will be premiering this April on Amazon Prime.

More info at:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5924114/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2

Please join their facebook fan page for updates:

https://www.facebook.com/holyterrormovie/

The NEXT GREAT HORROR WRITER Contest Contestants Announced!

At last! After months of submissions, judging, and deliberating, We have our top 14 writers competing in the #NGHW contest! Follow your favorite, cheer them on, and keep up with the show to find out who wins. For more information, subscribe to the #NGHW blog.

JONATHAN FORTIN
Age: 29
From: El Cerrito, CA, USA

Twitter

As a child, Jonathan Fortin was perpetually terrified, so of course he grew up to be a horror writer. Haunted by tales that grow in his head like demonic children, Jonathan believes that a good horror story is first and foremost a good story—just one where particularly awful things happen.
Facebook / Website

FEIND GOTTES
Age: 44
From: Dewittville, NY, USA

Twitter

A late night viewing of Phantasm lit a terrible spark that led Feind to Stephen King then to the fantastical worlds of Clive Barker. Feind attempts to weave all the many facets of horror into his own tales using metal as his inspiration. Shhhh… he’s right behind you!

Facebook / Website

TIMOTHY G. HUGUENIN
Age: 27
From: Bartow, WV USA

Twitter

Timothy G. Huguenin grew up in Appalachia, a storytelling culture, where ghost tales around the camp fire are common. He wants to be a strong literary voice for West Virginia as well as for horror in general. Major influences are King and Poe, and he’s really digging Ligotti right now.  Facebook / Website

HARRY HUSBANDS
Age: 27
From: Peterborough, UK

Facebook

Harry spends the majority of his day in an office. In the evening, he writes furiously all the disturbed imaginings dwelled upon while completing banal admin tasks. He crafts tales with subtle terror that are dipped in humor and roasted slowly over an infectious passion for all things horror related.

NACHING KASSA
Age: 41
From: Valley, WA, USA

Twitter

Naching T. Kassa devours fear, breathes terror, and bleeds dread. She has loved horror ever since she was a child and that passion has never wavered nor died. She knows the joy of fright and her greatest wish is to spread the madness among her readers. Join her journey today.
Facebook / Pintrest / Website

AE KIRK
Age: 30
From: Devon, England

Twitter

“I’m a 30 year old Stephen King admirer with a penchant for writing about the dead. I live in the UK with my husband and my non-brave Cavalier King Charles called Ginny. I work in the Healthcare Sector by day and by night I scare the pants off my readers.”

JESS LANDRY
Age: 30
From: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Facebook

Since the day she was born, Jess Landry has always been attracted to the darker things in life. Her fondest childhood memories include getting nightmares from the Goosebumps books, watching The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, and reiterating to her parents that there was absolutely nothing wrong with her mental state.
Twitter /  Website

JC MARTINEZ
Age: 27
From: Metepec, Estado de México, México

Facebook

“I used to be afraid of the dark. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that, now, the dark is afraid of me, but I do know that since I’ve embraced it, it’s filled my dreams with beautiful nightmares. Nightmares that I hope to scare the whole world with.”
Website

PATRICK R. McDONOUGH
Age: 28
From: Somers Point, New Jersey, USA

Facebook

“Everything I fear, hate, love, and am passionate about, as well as the what-if scenarios, are the ingredients to my stories. Reality is the perspective of an individual…and horror is a shifting-reality with an endless supply of terror.”
Twitter / Website

QUENTIN NORRIS
Age: 26
From: Austin, Texas, USA

Facebook

For as long as he can remember, Quentin Norris has been afraid of the dark.  This fear was a hindrance to him, but one day he realized that he could harness this fear.  Now he uses his terror as inspiration to craft the most spine-tingling tales for his audience.

RILEY J. PIERCE
Age: 31
From: Rice Lake, WI, USA

Twitter

“When things go bump in the night, some will pray it is the wind. I will pray it is not. For as long as I can remember, I’ve sought out horror and the unknown. From Alvin Schwartz to William Peter Blatty, horror has been my lifelong companion. Writing has allowed me to become a literary Frankenstein, and I can’t wait to introduce the monsters I’ve created.”
Website

SUMIKO SAULSON
Age: 48
From: Oakland, CA, USA

Twitter

“Horror is my primary literary genre. My parents were ardent fans. I read my first horror novel, Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, when I was ten. For me, horror is about processing our primal fears as a species and attempting to survive in hostile environments. I find writing horror supremely therapeutic.”
Website

DAPHNE STRASERT
Age: 27
From: Houston, Texas, USA

Facebook

“To be honest, I’m a coward. Yet, I adore putting my fear on paper. I love to transform words into a reality that slithers off the page and claws inside you. I write so you feel my terror crawl up your spine and turn you into a coward like me.”

Twitter / Website

CAT VOLEUR
Age: 22
From:  Mobile, Alabama, USA

Twitter

Cat Voleur lives and breathes horror. She runs a blog that celebrates the genre in all its mediums because she loves sharing that passion and supplying scares to fellow horror junkies. Now her attention has turned to writing fiction about what she knows best; fear.

Kidnapped Guest Blog: DARK DREAMERS BY MARK SLADE

DARK DREAMERS

BY MARK SLADE

DARK DREAMS LINK: http://www.lulu.com/shop/rogue-planet-press/dark-dreams/paperback/product-22931027.html

Dark dreams began a few years ago as a podcast. I wanted to give other writers a chance to be heard, as well as myself. I also wanted to gather as many of my favorite stories by writers I liked. I was able to have stories read by Richard Christian Matheson, G. Wayne Miller and Joe R. Lansdale. My narrations were not very good, but E.S. Wynn was a master of it. He had a flare for the dramatic and the right timing for comedy, and a voice to die for. That podcast bit the dust after two or three years. Funny story (not so funny at the time) but a name writer took offense when I asked if his story could be read. He didn’t like my website, claimed I was stealing writer’s stories and vowed he would get the Horror Writers Association to sue me. I thought I was going to have to shut things down when another writer told me to ignore it, and it would go away. Well, nothing happened except he drew more people to the podcast for a week or so. A few years went by and an 80 or so episodes went by before I closed the podcast.

A few months ago I was listening to the Twilight Zone podcast, http://thetwilightzonepodcast.com/, hosted by Tom Elliot. He said (I think) that he believed the Twilight Zone all characters were connected somehow, and that the reason for the Twilight Zone’s existence was because of that connection. I loved that reasoning of the show and I got to thinking of bringing the title Dark Dreams back and doing an anthology. So I asked each writer to write a story using a minor or major character from the last story entry. Or if they already had a story to modify a character’s name. I’ve asked the contributors to explain their inspirations for their story. I also asked Artist Cameron Hampton about her paintings and drawings that make up the cover. To me the cover shows, in a dreamlike state, four different images that sums up the book. Loneliness and isolation, sex, murder and a horrific consequences of an evil act (or) acts.

dark-dreams-cover

BOOK COVER AND ART BY CAMERON HAMPTON

Cameron:

The painting on the left is a self-portrait of me Skyping with my boyfriend. It’s called Long Distance. The pictures on the top right were for another writers work, ‘Nothing there’ by G. Wayne Miller. The painting on the bottom right (the green one) is for an Edgar Allan Poe story, The Cask of Amontillado.”

DREAM GURU BY MARK SLADE

I think it’s safe to say almost everyone who contributed to this book is a huge Rod Serling fan, whether it’s the Twilight Zone or Night Gallery, those influence weigh heavy on all involved in this project. This story was originally published in Nightmare Stalkers and Dream Walkers volume II. I had an idea about a man who had so many gambling debts that he was willing to do anything to rid himself of the problem. I also wanted to write a story about self-help gurus and how obsessed society is with “self”. Improving yourself is fine, but wouldn’t it be better if the improvement was how you treated people and your loved ones, not paying loads of money to satisfy the “inner self”? Maybe helping out with, or giving to charities?

I imagined this to be an episode of Tales from the darkside. I imagined the main character as a young (1980’s) John Goodman and the girlfriend Cathy Moriarty of raging Bull fame. The dream guru character was named after friend and writer T. Fox Dunham.

BEYOND THE MINDS EYE BY THOMAS M. MALAFARINA

Tom’s story was perfect follow up to mine. Definitely a shock to the system with that ending.

Tom:

My inspiration for “Beyond the Mind’s Eye” was to create a horror/sci-fi type of story that combined several different elements. I wanted to show something about the power of creativity and how an imagination is so incredibly powerful. I also wanted to touch on how technology, originally developed with the greater good in mind could become corrupted by human greed. And of course I wanted to throw in some good old fashioned gore. The original inspiration was a work of art by Nunzio Barbera of the same title. https://www.saatchiart.com/art/-Beyond-the-Mind-s-Eye/166157/94820/view. This story was part of my collection “Gallery Of Horror” no longer in print. I took 10 of Nunzio’s works and wrote stories around them with the same title. The purpose of this was to simulate in print the old Rod Serling show “Night Gallery”. If the story has a bit of a “Twilight Zone” feel, that’s why.”

PSYCHOSIS BY D.S. SCOTT

D.S.’s story kept me guessing where it was going. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I came to the end because I didn’t see it coming.

D.S.:

Well, the idea for my story came from my experiences with doctors and nurses. Although I’ve never been placed in a mental institution before, I have visited one and seen what it’s like. I also have physical health problems, so I’ve had to deal with more than my fair share of doctors. I’ve wondered what it’s like to have that job. I guess my inspiration came from thinking to myself, what if a mentally ill person was the one taking care of other mentally ill people and what kind of outcome that could produce. There are killers that blend in with everyone else in society, so why wouldn’t there be some that blend in as doctors or nurses, too?

I think I watched an episode of the show Dexter, about the serial killer who kills other killers. If I recall correctly, I think his first human kill was the nurse who tried to overdose his step father in the hospital. I’m not sure if that’s in the book series by Jeff Lindsay though. But now that I think about it, that probably helped inspire me with the story.”

Jacqui sent this story to me quickly after I asked her to join in on the anthology. I believe it only took her two weeks. But what a satisfying little gem it is and fits perfectly as an intro to the next story by Emerian. Funny how so many writers can end up on the same wave length.

BEAUTIFUL ANGEL BY JOHN C. ADAMS

Jacqui:

I love the novelty of linking the story together. It felt really fresh and innovative.

My inspiration came from the previous story, where a nurse was called a ‘beautiful angel’. As a horror writer I went ahead and took that literally. She meets a horrible end but comes back as a guardian angel, a sort of psychic detective from another realm.

Writer’s that inspired me were HP Lovecraft always and Stephen King. Read a lot of James Herbert as a kid. All of them influenced me a lot. I wouldn’t say any of them were in mind when I wrote the story – probably subconscious, as these things always are.”

This is the second time I’ve been able work with Emerian for an anthology. Happily, it was not what I was expecting from her. I couldn’t help but have that feeling of claustrophobia when I read her story, or maybe anxiety of dread is more appropriate.

VAMPIRE THERAPY BY EMERIAN RICH

Emerian:

Actually a dream- which is where a lot of my ideas come from. I woke one night in the middle of the night breathing hard and felt like someone was stealing my breath. I also had the very real impression that my husband had died in a terrorist attack. He hadn’t…thankfully he was still by my side. But in the darkness I saw a form that looked like a vampire face. I turned on the light – it was just a white shirt hanging in the closet. So yes, all imagined, but creeped me out enough to write about it.”

Jason Norton sent me a few stories for the now defunct mag I was doing for Horrified Press Nightmare Illustrated. I think we share the same philosophy when it comes to writing stories. Try to hook the reader from the get-go foreshadow the ending (or in our case surprise ending) of the story.

6 BY JASON NORTON

Jason:

The majority of my short stories (including this one) have been inspired by two sources: Tales from the Crypt and The Twilight Zone. I always try to catch the reader off-guard with some sort of twist or unexpected plot thread. And I love a good redemption story, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to take a shot at writing one. This story had its origins in an idea I had nearly 20 years ago, but never completed. The original idea was that this hard-luck criminal who had lost nearly everything ends up at this mysterious roadside hotel where all these lost objects–and lost travelers–turn up. The watch I use in “6” came directly from that original story concept. I tweaked the updated version, adding a few horror elements and a new ending and I think it made for a more enjoyable narrative–but of course, I’m pretty biased.”

P.J. is a fellow column writer for Horror Metal Sounds as I am with my column From the Grave. I was reading one of his columns about movies and decided to ask him along for the ride. I most certainly had no regrets. He produced a fine, interesting story. I hope to see more from him.

CLUMSY IS THE CROW BY P.J. GRIFFIN

P.J.:

I wanted to create a story that had the feeling of a genuine nightmare. Nightmares are often so scary because not only do they tap into our personal fears but they are also quite disconnected from reality. It’s as if nightmares are all the terror without any safety net.

The initial concept of the story was the tangible feeling of being alone in the woods, suddenly feeling like you’ve made a mistake. The character knows that staying home was probably a better choice but he’s gone too far and he is simultaneously afraid of being exposed. However, little by little, the narrator distances himself from what the reader might see as acceptable response to his situation and surroundings. Suddenly the reader loses the narrator as their one connection to the safety of reality. It’s a frightening thing to realize that a tour guide is no longer a stable figure.

Additionally, I wanted to explore the nature of losing oneself. I feel that our emotions and how they align with the majority of others is a comfort that can be especially disturbing when lost. The horrific becomes comedic, the senseless suddenly makes sense.

Nightmares often become so upsetting because it’s as if we are in a strange world to which we feel inexplicably feel connected. Getting lost in the chaos, venturing out into uncharted territory and having your own feelings betray you. That’s what the heart of the story is.”

By far the most bizarre story I’ve had in any of my anthologies. Not for the faint of heart. By the way, Mr. Deadman runs his own online zine Deadman’s Tome, along with a podcast of the same name.

CYNTHIA’S GARDEN BY MR. DEADMAN

Mr. Deadman:

Inspiration: my goal with Cynthia’s Garden was to write something absolutely disgusting, perverted, and bizarre. The subtext, however, played with the idea of a strong female character that kills people for simply slut shaming her. The twist at the end with the talking heads was from a concept I’ve been playing with for a while: a garden of bodies.”

I might be wrong, but I think Joe has been in almost every anthology I have put together. He was one of the original writers for the podcast Blackout City and he is in my anthology Wicked Gardens a book of stories about an apartment building.

MANIK BY DAVID LUDFORD

David:

I guess my inspiration was something I’ve relied on for a number of stories- man’s interaction with strange, supernatural creatures and the endless possibilities this presents. Significantly with ‘Manik’ it wasn’t an ordinary man who caused the demon’s downfall but a supernatural power even higher than itself. I wondered what a battle- albeit a brief one- between evil forces would look like.”

PENANCE BY JOSEPH PATCHEN

Joe:

Dreams. I get everything from letting my mind go and the dream or nightmare enters. I don’t write anything. I’m the vessel for whatever enters and develops in my unconscious and subconscious state.”

Next up is a very unsettling story by Mark Tompkins, a writer who has been involved with many projects published by Horrified Press and Rogue Planet press.

PHASE BOUNDRY BY MARK TOMPKINS

MARK:

Phase Boundary was inspired by pondering shadows and different states of matter. The idea came to me one lazy weekend day when I was sitting outside watching the shadows through the trees. My wife and I had been discussing parallel universes and other theoretical stuff earlier in the day and the story just popped into my head.”

The book was just about finished, but it seemed to need something else. I noticed that E.S. Wynn wasn’t in the book. Earl is another writer that has been in every project I’ve been tied to. Initially he turned me down, having too many things on his plate. But I pleaded and finally he caved in. Without his contribution, the book would have felt unfinished.

FEAST OF FLESH BY E.S. WYNN

Earl:

My biggest inspiration for Feast of Flesh was H.P. Lovecraft. I wanted to bring forth elements of his style and of the kinds of stories he wrote and put them together into something uniquely my own. I wanted to write a rainy nightmare about cats and rats that leaves the reader wondering who the bad guy really is.”

I’ve seen Shawn’s name pop up all over the place and decided to take a chance, ask him to be in the book. A wallop of a story. Packs a lot of power.

THE OLD MAN BY SHAWN CLAY

Shawn:

I wanted a departure from the zombie genre. I got the idea from wondering what it would be like for the reaper when it was time for him to come and take someone. I wanted to personify him as both caring and cruel at the same time. Relief and struggle can be opposite spectrums of the reaper’s calling.”

Thankfully Gavin Chappell, my co-editor on this book and the others, asked Kevin to finish it up. I wanted Gavin to write the last story, but running an imprint, two magazines, editing a lot of anthologies and writing, I wonder if the man ever sleeps. He asked Kevin to step in and he did a great job. I also asked Gavin what he thought of the book after it was completed.

Gavin:

An ambitious project. The various authors’ skillful ability to bring together all those disparate strands and continuing the themes and characters through so many changes of scene was what impressed me most.”

DRIFT BY KEVIN REES

Kevin:

First, I was contacted by Gavin who asked if I could do a ‘wrap up’ story that encompassed the other stories. Also I was briefed that a minor character from the previous story would appear in the following story. That sort of didn’t happen, however the quality of the stories as standalone’s, and the fact they were supposed to be dreams gave me the idea of taking several of the characters and placing them in the nightmare world of Drift. When I write a story images tend to come to mind and then words. The word Drift wouldn’t go away and I wanted it to stand for something, an acronym. It worked because it’s linked to drifting off to sleep and the anthology dealt with dreams. I enjoyed writing the story and hope it did justice to the anthology.”

It would be fun to produce another volume. Who knows, maybe even have the same writers and none of the stories link until the last story to recap and link them together. Or maybe just have one object pop up in each story that could be the link. It could happen if everyone has time to put energy into the project.

David’s Haunted Library: Greylock

David's Haunted Library

27108969Alexei Georg was born to be a famous musician, his father was a pianist and Alexei’s only desire was to follow in his footsteps. Alexei has created a name for himself by writing and performing a sonata called October. At least that’s what people believe, Alexei has a dark secret. He found the sonata in an old 19th century Russian sea chest. When he performs it a dark creature appears and stalks him and now his career is going downhill.

To make matters worse Alexei is having an affair and his wife has been murdered with the evidence pointing to him. In order to revive his career Alexei plans to write a symphony based on the songs of the beluga whales while in isolation on Mt. Greylock. Though even alone on the mountain he can’t escape the creature that he has brought into the world or the accusations of murder. Alexei must face the darkness he has unleashed or it could use him as a conduit forever.

Greylock by Paula Cappa is a supernatural murder mystery where mythology and music create a dark mood. The music itself is like a character and what and how something is being played has an effect on everyone else in the book. It’s through the music that evil gets unleashed, but it’s also how Alexei expresses his emotions. Music is his life and it’s what makes him happy, even if some think he is not really that good at it. Alexei is a complicated character, at first I found I didn’t like him because he is having an affair, talks about murdering his wife and he is lying about the music he creates. Though as you get to know him you see him as someone who wants to live up to the family legacy and is willing to do anything to do so. This is a need that’s easy to relate to. By the end of the book you see a very different Alexei then you see a the beginning and its the character’s transformation that makes the book memorable.

Another thing I liked about Greylock was how the mystery unfolds. there are two different mysteries going on at the same time and in the case of the murder mystery there were times in the story where I was pretty sure that three different people were the murderer but I was wrong each time. This was enough to hold my interest throughout and the other mystery of who the dark entity is was just as compelling.

Greylock is not your average horror novel, it’s more personal. There is no over the top violence but you see Alexei deal with such personal horrors as abandonment, betrayal, wanting something he can’t have, his own insecurities as a musician and his need for fame. On a smaller level we also see the other characters in the book deal with the same issues and see what different paths their choices lead them in. Greylock is the kind of book you may have to read twice to catch all the subtle details, it’s about creating a mood and not in your face like some horror is. If you enjoy a good supernatural mystery then you should check it out.

Kbatz: Dream House

Frightening Flix

Dream House A Mishmash of Wasted Talent.

By Kristin Battestella

 

Despite the digital cable’s one star warning, I settled in for a creepy night with this recent 2011 thriller. Unfortunately, the real life romance sparked on-set for stars Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz really is the claim to fame here.

Editor Will Atenten (Craig) and his artist wife Libby (Weisz) have quit their jobs and purchased the country house of their dreams at last! As they settle in, local teens harass the couple and their young daughters for being unaware of the home’s murderous history. Friendly neighbor Ann Patterson (Naomi Watts) tries to be sympathetic to Will, but he slowly suspects his new home and family life are not what they appear to be…

Much acclaimed director Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, The Field) ends up hampered by the multiple personality script and PG-13 rating enforced by the studio here. The location and accents are never explained, nor is whether the narrative is all just part of the ‘novel being written by the main character’ cliché. Dream House isn’t meant to be a full on scary horror movie, but it drops the ball on the mystery and suspense thriller vibes. Everything looks either too daytime normal with an unrealistically idyllic, no money worries happy family or evening can’t see dark and confusing everything thrown at the fan attempt. There’s not a lot of atmosphere to build suspense, and nothing happens for the first twenty minutes. This slow start is costly time in a 90-minute movie, and a too early twist halfway thru Dream House changes the entire purpose of the picture completely. The surprise is nothing shocking; Dream House is a lot like Shutter Island. You can see the snafu coming almost from the cold opening, and the viewers are left with nothing to care about except the famous players. I came into the film unaware of its history, but it’s no surprise that the stars disowned the end result and all subsequent promotions. From just a ho-hum picture about a family in a hew house to a crime history and a man on the case, the hints to something deeper and what could have been are there. Unfortunately, there’s not enough depth to make any of it worthwhile.

dream_house_poster

Current James Bond Daniel Craig and beautiful Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener) make a lovely couple onscreen and off, but Dream House doesn’t lend their chemistry much to do. Both seem a little too soft spoken, even mumbly or shy, and the confusing plot doesn’t help clarify their intentions. Thankfully, they do match each other wonderfully- unlike most thriller movies today with couples too young to be believable or an old man with a hottie wife. Craig and Weisz are the right age and maturity, and their caring of young co- stars Claire and Taylor Geare feels genuine. They aren’t bad; I doubt any such skilled thespians could be so. However, the players just have so little to do in Dream House. You can see Craig’s effort at a conflicted father with layers and feeling for his family, but the mishmashed editing and presentation on Will’s state of mind confuses the onesided Libby further. Audiences are once again left wanting more of Craig while wondering how someone like Weisz would stoop to the do nothing perfect artist mom in a run of the mill pseudo haunted house show. Sigh. With all the focus on Craigweisz, Best Actress nominee Naomi Watts (21 Grams, The Ring) is somewhat unexpectedly decent as the pretty and mysterious neighbor who knows the history of what’s gone down- supposedly. Of course, she’s not given much else, and Marton Csokas (Lord of the Rings) is equally strapped as her jerky ex-husband Jack. Any well-versed mystery thriller viewer will see his lame part in Dream House coming a mile away.

Fans of the cast or the Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz real life romance can have a good time with this film, and folks looking for something bad to watch for a drinking game or late night party can find something silly to enjoy. Unfortunately, there’s precious little here to appreciate otherwise. The players didn’t drop the ball, but somewhere along the line, someone really did a number to this Dream House.